For better or worse, we have Nintendo to thank for the modern-day gaming industry; they revived the North American market with the NES in 1985 and have, for the most part, stood in a league of their own in terms of quality. While virtually everything they touch turns to gold, that certainly isn’t always the case.
From the decision to stick with cartridges throughout the Nintendo 64’s lifespan to the confusing, poorly-marketed launch of the Wii U, it hasn’t all been easy going for the big N. They’ve certainly done much, much more good than harm over the years, but even the most dedicated Nintendo stalwarts have to admit that they’ve stumbled in some places. They remain one of the few major AAA publishers which few would claim to be outright nefarious, yet they consistently announce concepts, peripherals, and games that can only be described as a very unique brand of weird.
Most of us know that Nintendo traces its history back to the late 19th history, and, though they primarily focused on the production of Hanafuda cards, they also released a strange series of toys and miscellaneous gadgets leading up to their leap into the gaming industry. One of these oddities was the Nintendo Love Tester, a device which as intended to determine if two people were compatible. This weird little device was actually developed by Gunpei Yokoi, the man popularly considered to be the inventor of the GameBoy.
As previously mentioned, Nintendo can more or less be single-handedly credited with the revival of the North American console gaming industry. That said, they did it in the most Nintendo way possible; rather than just release a games machine, they opted to sneak the console beneath everyone’s TVs by marketing it as a toy. Initially bundled with ROB the Robot—an unnecessary plastic companion which was only compatible with two NES games and didn’t function very well—kids and parents were suckered in by the gimmick, but it was soon discarded once the games themselves stole the show. Was the tactic successful? Yes, wildly so. Was it kind of a weird, outside-the-box thing to do? Yes, it was.
One console evolution later, Nintendo was locked in a bitter battle against Sega and their 16-bit Genesis console, and, eager to ensure that Genesis could no longer do what Ninten-don’t, they tried to collaborate with Sony on a new console which made use of CD technology. When that fell through, they instead opted to partner with Phillips and eventually agreed to temporarily license some of their characters to them. The result was one Mario and two Zelda titles popularly considered to be some of the worst pieces of interactive media ever released. Utterly disgusting and shameful, this was one weird goof which Nintendo will never live down.
We’ve already mentioned Nintendo’s bizarre decision to stick with outdated, pricey cartridges during the N64 era, but, even when the GameCube rolled around in 2001, they still failed to fully commit to the medium. Instead, the GameCube made use of weird proprietary mini-CDs which heavily restricted the size and scope of titles on the console. Though they finally caved and utilized regular CDs on the Wii—more than a decade after the competition first adopted the medium—they failed to adapt to the HD revolution, and, as a result, the Wii lagged horribly in terms of visual fidelity during the seventh console generation.
However, that slight gaff pales in comparison to the Wii U, which was marketed so poorly that consumers though it was some sort of peripheral for the original Wii rather than an entirely new console. The system flopped hard and and is second only to the infamous Virtual Boy in terms of sluggish sales figures. That's not to mention the game-pad gimmick, which was clunky and seemed to prompt more confusion than innovation among developers.
While the Switch subsequently righted the previous console’s wrongs, it came with its own set of oddities. The most questionable thing Nintendo has released so far has to be the Labo kit. Essentially some very expensive DIY cardboard models, it was a very weird product on which none save for Nintendo would gamble. They’ve also recently announced Ring Fit Adventure, which, though we can speak for its quality yet, seems to be a strange bid to reignite the Wii-era exercise craze.
Nintendo is and will always be one of the most beloved corporate entities of all time, but they’ve definitely done their fair share of questionable stuff in the past. Perhaps that’s what makes them so loveable, though. Keep on being weird, Nintendo.